Ack­er­mann’s last game dream fin­ish

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS - JAC­QUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN

JO­HAN Ack­er­mann’s wish of hav­ing a sold-out El­lis Park for his last game in charge of the Lions will come true on Satur­day.

Ack­er­mann, pic­tured, will be in charge for the fi­nal time when his team host the seven-time cham­pi­ons, the Cru­saders, at 4pm on Satur­day, with the Su­per Rugby ti­tle on the line.

Next week, the pop­u­lar Lions boss will head to Glouces­ter in Eng­land where he will take up a po­si­tion of head coach for the next three years. His as­sis­tant, Swys de Bruin, will take over the hot seat.

The Lions con­firmed yes­ter­day that they’ll hit the 62 000 ca­pac­ity mark on Satur­day.

“It’s amaz­ing… I’m so grate­ful to be in the fi­nal again,” said Ack­er­mann af­ter the Lions had downed the Hur­ri­canes in last Satur­day’s semi-fi­nal, the same team that beat them in the 2016 fi­nal, al­beit in Welling­ton.

Only 32 000 fans turned up last Satur­day to watch the match, a thriller which saw the Lions come back from be­ing 22-3 down to win 44-29. The pre­vi­ous week, in the quar­ter-fi­nal against the Sharks, 29 000 watched from the stands. “It’s the dream fin­ish, to play in front of a full El­lis Park. You can’t ask for more, it’s the ul­ti­mate. It’s un­real… it’s the way I al­ways wanted to fin­ish here, es­pe­cially af­ter the special jour­ney over the last few years.”

The fans started buy­ing tick­ets for the fi­nal on Satur­day evening al­ready, just min­utes af­ter the re­mark­able come­back vic­tory against the Hur­ri­canes. By midday yes­ter­day, 50 000 tick­ets had been sold, and by last night, they’d all been snapped up.

The Lions and Cru­saders go into the fi­nal hav­ing both only lost once in round-robin play this year, the vis­i­tors from Christchurch edg­ing the Chiefs last week­end to qual­ify for their 12th fi­nal.

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